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Article Title "Can Liner Durability | Unveiling the key factors" accompanied with a carton of three people picking up trash and placing it in can liners.

Can Liner Durability | Unveiling The Key Factors

We’ve all experienced the misery of carrying a leaky trash bag, or worse, we’ve cleaned up the sludge-covered debris from a punctured trash bag. You pick up the bag with confidence, walk towards the door, and as soon as you spot the trail of mysterious liquid waste, you know that this typically mundane task just became a little more…. complicated. You find yourself faced with a choice you never intended on having to make. Do you race to the dumpster and hope for the best? Or do you set the bag down to grab a replacement as the sinister muck continues its descent unsupervised? We have all encountered this vile dilemma, and yet so few of us know that the solution to prevent this mess from happening again has been out there all along. But today is the day. It’s time to learn about the factors at play for can liner durability. 

Durability Factors

Whether you are looking for commercial can liners or simply want the best garbage bags for your home, there are a few factors to consider before buying. To make things simple, let’s break this down into four categories.

  1. Size
  2. Density
  3. Gauge (Thickness)
  4. Seal


The right sized liner should fit snugly against the walls of your bin and wrap around the rim without much effort. If your trash bags are too big, you are wasting money and resources. If your trash bags are too small, you are wasting time from excessive replacing and struggling to make them fit. Liners that fit with an overhang of four inches or less is the ideal length you should be going for. The packaging on can liners will list the size in two different numbers (ex: 20” x 35”) The first number indicates the width, or size of the opening, and the second number indicates length. To determine what size is appropriate for your receptacle, just pull out some string or measuring tape, and use this guide to find the measurements you need.

Bag Width: For round trash cans, take the diameter, or width, from the top of the container and then multiply it by 3.14 (pi). Then divide that number by 2. This will be the width of your can liner. For square or rectangular containers, add the length of all 4 sides together to calculate the perimeter, then divide that number by 2. That will be the width of your trash bag. 

Bag Length: With a string or tape measure, start at the bottom center of your container and measure all the way up to the rim. Add four inches to that number. This will be the length of your trash bag.


Nearly all can liners are made of polyethylene plastics, but the way that the polyethylene is treated during the manufacturing process plays a major role in the texture, strength, and elasticity of each bag. There are two main types of can liners: high-density (HD) and linear low-density (LLD). There is a third type, which is the low-density liner, but recent advances in technology have essentially eliminated these from the can liner market. As a result, “linear low-density” liners are now often referred to as “low-density” even though they technically are different.

High-Density (HD)

High-density bags are composed of closely packed molecules (hence the name “high-density), resulting in a bag that is thin, rigid, and stiff to the touch. Since the molecules in HD bags are so tightly compacted together, they do not have much wiggle room to stretch. This results in a can liner that’s highly suited for heavy load capacities, but they lack elasticity and the ability to stretch. These liners can be remarkably resistant to extreme temperatures found in some industrial settings, and their ability to withstand UV exposure means that they can be uncovered in outdoor settings for up to 6 months. HD liners typically cost less and contain less plastic than their LLD counterpart. Keep in mind, however, that they are highly vulnerable to sharp or pointy objects. If you must frequently replace or use multiple can liners due to splits and tears, they no longer are a cost efficient or environmentally responsible option. HD bags are stiffer and feature less stretch to offer a strong lift strength, which means they can withstand heavy weight, but they cannot withstand sharp objects. If you were to pick up a standard 13 gallon LLD bag filled with wet towels, it would stretch and sink to the ground, while an HD bag with a high micron count could handle the weight with ease.

High-density liners are best suited for:

  Laundry and towels

  Light office waste

  Shredded paper

  Restroom disposals

  Yard waste (dirt, leaves, grass, pebbles)

  Produce distribution (potatoes, grain, etc.)


Linear Low-Density (LLD)

Linear low-density can liners are known for their strength, puncture resistance, and flexibility. They are designed to withstand the rigors of sharp objects and heavy waste, which explains why they’re the most common trash bags in household kitchens today. These bags are durable and versatile, however, not all LLD bags are made equally! Just like any other competitive product on the market, there is a lot of variation in terms of materials, quality, and pricing. Choosing can liners with the appropriate gauge (thickness) and seal type will help to ensure you’re not “throwing out money with the trash.” If you know you are going to be discarding sharp objects, or if you’re unable to predict the type of trash that will be collected, LLD liners are your best option as they are the most versatile and elastic liners on the market today.

Linear low-density liners are best suited for:

 Kitchen or restaurant waste

     Construction debris

 Public parks

     Hard plastic packaging and utensils

 Yard waste (sticks, mulch, jagged or sharp debris)

     Broken or sharp glass



Gauge is the term used to describe the thickness of can liners. Because the material is so incredibly thin, we do not use our ordinary units of measurement such as inches or centimeters to measure them. Instead, we use two much smaller units of measurement known as mils and microns. Low-density liners are measured in mils, while high density liners are measured in microns. 


The smallest unit of measurement for describing can liner thickness is the micrometer, better known as the micron. One micron is equal to one millionth of a meter or approximately 0.00004 inches. For perspective, a standard piece of paper is around 100 microns thick. Microns are used to measure the thickness of high-density trash bags only and can range anywhere from 6 to 24 microns. The more microns a trash bag has, the thicker and stronger that bag will be.


Can Size











Extra Heavy








While the micron measures one thousandth of a meter, the mil measures one thousandth of an inch, so one mil is .001”. Mils are used to measure linear low-density can liners, and they will range anywhere from .37-6.0 mil in thickness. The average kitchen trash bag has a gauge of about 0.72 - 1.2 mils. Any gauge that is 3.0 mils or higher are construction grade, ultra heavy-duty bags.


Can Size




.35 - .50



.45 - .72



.72 - 1.7

Extra Heavy

Extra Large

1.7 - 3.0

Contractor Grade

Extra, Extra Large

3.0 - 6.0


Seal Type

The seal type is the final factor to consider with can liner durability, and it is an important one! The term "seal" refers to the seam on the bottom of the bag. There are three types of can liner seals: flat, star, and gusset.  

Flat Seal

Flat sealed trash bags have a simple, flat bottom seam that extends across the entire width of the bag (think pillowcase). The sides of the bag are typically straight and do not expand or taper. These seals are the easiest to manufacture, so they are generally cheaper than other seal types. They are prone to leaks and do not conform to containers as well as other seal types. These are most common in contractor liners with thick gauges as they can stand upright on their own.  

Flat Seal Black Can Liner

Star Seal

The star seal is created by folding plastic film to form multiple sealed points that resemble a star. They are the most leak-proof seals on the market, making them highly suitable for wet or messy trash. They conform perfectly to any shape of trash can, reducing the risk of the bag slipping down. The star seal eliminates gaps where leaks can occur, distributes weight evenly, and maximizes carrying capacity.

Yellow Can Liner with Star Seal

Gusset Seal

Gusset seals are the least common type of seal. They have a similar design to flat-style bags, but both sides are tucked in to form gussets. The seals are formed through four layers of film, with the middle of the bag only having two sealed layers. They are suitable for larger and bulkier items or for situations where you need extra capacity. They can be leak-resistant, but the gussets can make the bags unstable when carrying heavy loads. 


Finding the right can liners that meet your specific needs can save time, money, and resources. If you know what factors to pay attention to, you can find the right bag for any occasion, any bin, or any amount of trash you are expecting.